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Originally published August 15 2015

Man arrested for shooting down drone in his private airspace for spying on his sunbathing daughter

by J. D. Heyes

(NaturalNews) I was sitting outside on my deck on a recent warm, summer evening when suddenly, I heard a buzzing noise overhead. I looked up and, in the distance, I could see an "object" bearing red and green lights hovering over my suburbia.

Faint at first, the buzz grew steadily as it approached my home. I watched the craft keenly, not immediately realizing that what I was witnessing the first known flight of a small drone in our neighborhood.

Initially, I was intrigued. I had written a great about the emergence of these drones - not the CIA's massive Predator drones, but the smaller ones that are increasingly being utilized by local police, federal and state agencies to conduct surveillance on key suspects.

But then I grew irritated and felt betrayed at the breach of privacy, and my thoughts shifted to things I could do to ensure that my rights were never again breached by a probing neighbor.

Should I call the police? I could, but I wasn't sure that there were any city ordinances against the flying of small drones over neighborhoods. After all, I knew that local officials and national politicians have not really caught up to drone use with legislation and regulations.

Still, public airspace - that which is subject to air traffic control by the government - begins at 500 feet. Was this drone intrusion against the law? And if so, what should be done about it?

One man in Hillview, Kentucky, came up with a rather novel solution when he was faced with a similar situation: He shot it down.

Don't we have an expectation of privacy?

As reported by WDRB, police were called to the home of William Merideth, 47, after a neighbor complained about the discharge of a firearm. When cops arrived, they say Merideth told them he shot down a drone that was hovering low over his home; the wounded craft then crashed in a field nearby.

The owner of the drone, according to police, claimed he was using it to get pictures of a friend's house and that the drone cost more than $1,800.

As a result of the downing, Merideth was arrested and charged with first degree criminal mischief, as well as first degree wanton endangerment. He was later released on his own recognizance.

In an interview with WDRB, Merideth gave his account of what happened and why he acted in the manner he did.

"Sunday afternoon, the kids - my girls - were out on the back deck, and the neighbors were out in their yard," Merideth said. "And they come in and said, 'Dad, there's a drone out here, flying over everybody's yard.'"

He added that his neighbors also saw it.

"It was just hovering above our house and it stayed for a few moments and then she finally waved and it took off," added neighbor Kim VanMeter, who has a 16-year-old daughter who likes to sun herself by the family pool. She said that hovering drones that are equipped with cameras are creepy.

"I just think you should have privacy in your own back yard," VanMeter said.

As for Merideth, his property has a six-foot privacy fence - but that doesn't matter when you've got a drone flying overhead.

"We need to have some laws in place to handle these kind of things," he said.

Indeed. So who's right?

Don't shoot

In Merideth's city, there is an ordinance against discharging a weapon inside city limits, but was he justified because his privacy was being violated?

No. Probably.

And that's the problem. As noted by the Washington Post in a September 2014 piece on the subject of drones in private hands, there are still no hard-and-fast rules specifically governing drone flights by citizens over private property.

However, as noted by Venture Beat, there are federal laws and judicial rulings that make "it clear property owners do not enjoy unlimited privacy rights to their airspace."

"In fact," the site continued, "some believe that drones - quadcopters, octocopters, and other small-scale unmanned aerial vehicles - are already governed under the same laws that regulate aircraft like helicopters and airplanes."

Eventually the laws will catch up to private drone use, but for now, it's best not to shoot at a drone, no matter how violated we feel. Perhaps a talking to the offending neighbor or a call to the cops is a better idea.


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